Customers shop at Colorado marijuana shop Emerald Fields, in Glendale on April 29, 2015. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

Why pot shops in the U.S. will soon set sales records

Just as chocolatiers fancy February, florists adore May and necktie retailers love June, the marijuana industry truly celebrates April.

With the recent legalization of cannabis in certain areas of the United States, the unofficial holiday of 4/20 has legitimized itself. And the industry has the booming sales numbers to prove the holiday’s now-official status.

When dissecting Colorado marijuana sales data for 2015, three of the year’s 10 most lucrative days landed on April 20 and the weekend that preceded it, according to BDS Analytics, a firm that specializes in cannabis industry data collected from dispensaries’ point-of-sale systems.

On Monday April 20, 2015, Colorado marijuana shops sold $4.8 million of recreational and medical cannabis — which, at the time, was the state’s highest daily tally in 2015. The previous weekend’s numbers were also legit — $4 million in pot sales on April 17, $4.6 million on April 18 and $3.7 million on April 19.

Generally 3 percent of total marijuana shop sales are made up by accessories such as vaporizers and T-shirts, BDS notes.

By the end of 2015, 4/20 actual was the state’s third-highest day for pot sales — behind No. 1 Sept. 16, when the state waved most retail and excise taxes to comply with a quirk in the state constitution, and No. 2 Dec. 31, when revelers were preparing for a long weekend of New Year’s fun.

A large crowd congregates in Civic Center Park for the 2010 Denver 4/20 rally. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)
A large crowd congregates in Civic Center Park for the 2010 Denver 4/20 rally. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

“4/20 serves as a stimulus for the industry to start thinking about the rest of the year — making sure they have the right inventory levels but also thinking about the growth they’ll see throughout the rest of the year,” said Roy Bingham, founder of Boulder-based BDS Analytics. “Some of the levels that will be achieved this 4/20 period will approximately be more normal by the end of this year.”

Bingham and BDS director of analytics Tom Jones are predicting a monster 4/20 this year in Colorado and Washington — and that includes them accounting for no U.S. Cannabis Cup in Denver, as the event moved to southern California after a number of timing and regulatory issues.

In Colorado, statewide pot sales will top $5 million daily between Friday April 15 and Wednesday April 20 — with at least one of those days topping $6 million in marijuana sales, says BDS.

To put those daily figures in perspective, Colorado’s largest pot sales day this year came on Feb. 5, when state shops sold $3.98 million in product, according to BDS; The 2016 data only includes January and February, because the state’s Department of Revenue has not yet released tax data for March 2016.

BDS says statewide cannabis sales in Washington during this year’s 4/20 week will triple or quadruple the state’s daily average from April 2015, which was $621,000. The Friday-through-Wednesday 4/20 period alone will see Washington state pot sales exceeding $10 million, BDS says.

“I used to be a retailer in the outdoor industry,” said BDS’s Tom Jones. “When there would be a big holiday or a big weekend, it was very invigorating for not only the whole industry but for me and my colleagues, too. When you’d have that kind of increased sales volume, it can be really exciting.

“For these guys it’s probably really fun to have 4/20 approaching and have a lot more traffic in the stores and seeing the kind of volume that can happen. It’s also exciting because it’s a celebration of cannabis and what it means to different people. And that kind of celebratory atmosphere gets everyone in the industry jazzed.”

BDS uses “sophisticated statistical algorithms” to manipulate the millions of transactions it captures from dispensary point-of-sale systems and the states’ monthly tax statistics to provide these insights. Bingham says the company works directly with nearly 10 percent of Colorado’s marijuana shops to capture information involving more than 10 percent of of the state’s total transactions.